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The Letter to the Hebrews hails Jesus the High Priest by declaring that “he is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he forever lives to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25). Similarly the saints “on whose constant intercession … we rely for unfailing help” (Eucharistic Prayer III).
The Catechism teaches that “intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. … Christian intercession participates in Christ’s, as an expression of the communion of saints” (2634). A great beauty belongs to the prayer of intercession — asking something of God on behalf of another — inasmuch as it is “characteristic of a heart attuned to God’s mercy” (2635).
St. Catherine of Siena lays out for us the divine logic of intercessory prayer, the essence of which is holy dependence. In The Dialogue, God says to Catherine:
I have distributed all my gifts and graces in such a way that no one has all of them. For I could well have supplied each of you with all your needs, both spiritual and material. But I wanted to make you dependent on one another so that each of you would be my minister, dispensing the graces and gifts you have received from me. Could I not have given everyone everything? Of course. But in my providence I wanted to make each of you dependent on the others, so that you would be forced to exercise charity in action and will at once.
In fact, so essential is the prayer of intercession that, as we read in The Dialogue, “In love you ought to help your neighbors spiritually with prayer. You harm your neighbors by depriving them of the prayer you should be offering to me on their behalf.” Through intercession we put others in the Presence of God.
The Holy Spirit prompts us regarding our prayer for others. According to St. John of the Cross, “God sometimes shows holy souls the necessities of their neighbors so that through their prayer he may provide a remedy. … At times God will give the soul a desire to pray for others whom it has never known nor heard of.”
Some ideas about how to practice the prayer of intercession:
+ Keep a list of all those you are praying for. You can even place it in the notes function of your cell phone for ready access.
+ Resolve to offer up your daily trials and sufferings for those on your prayer list.
+ Ask others to pray for your intentions.
+ During Mass, at the Prayer of the Faithful (the Universal Prayer) be sure silently to remember in the petitions all those for whom you are interceding.
Dominican Fr. Bernard Bro captures the indispensable role of the prayer of intercession:
Life puts our neighbor before us. Without a prayer of petition, who can claim that he loves this neighbor? This other person is appointed by God to bring out the best in us, to give birth to what is divine within us.
Follow Fr. Cameron’s series on prayer here.
See some of the earlier pieces below: